FEASTERVILLE, Pa. (AP) — A neighbor said she had long felt that “something isn’t right” at a Bucks County home where a man is accused of sexually assaulting a teenager whose parents police say gave her to him when she was 14.
Jen Betz of Feasterville said she called authorities because was concerned about the young girls she saw outside the house, which she said had boarded windows and high weeds.
“They’re so sad and fearful every time I see them. That’s what made me call,” she said Saturday. “I’ve been telling my husband for years ‘Something isn’t right, something isn’t right.’”
Officials acting on a tip Thursday found 51-year-old Lee Kaplan at his home along with the girls, ranging in age from six months to 18 years. The 18-year-old told police that she and Kaplan have a 3-year-old and a six-month-old. Kaplan faces charges including statutory sexual assault, unlawful contact with a minor, and aggravated indecent assault.
District Attorney David Heckler said the parents of the girl Kaplan is accused of assaulting told police they were going to lose their farm until Kaplan “came out of the blue and saved them from financial ruin.”
Authorities allege in an affidavit that the girl’s father told an officer he gave his 14-year-old daughter to Kaplan after researching the legality of such an action online.
On Saturday, police and dogs scoured the home’s backyard for evidence. Lt. Ted Krimmel of the Lower Southampton police department said authorities waited until dawn so they would be able to search the property in daylight.
“We have a search warrant for the entire property,” he said. “There are dogs searching for evidence.”
Krimmel said officials are trying to verify who the parents of the other children found at the home are. The teenager’s parents told police the other nine girls in the house were their children, but no birth certificates or Social Security cards could be located to confirm that, he said.
When police entered the home Thursday, “all the children were running around,” Krimmel said. “Some were hiding. They were well-behaved, but scared.”
The oldest girl’s father, Daniel Stoltzfus, is charged with conspiracy of statutory sexual assault and children endangerment. His wife, Savilla Stoltzfus, is charged with endangering the welfare of a child.
The couple and Kaplan were being held in lieu of $1 million bail. Court documents don’t list attorneys for them.
WPVI–TV reported that the Stoltzfuses 19-year-old son, John, told the station at the house Friday night that his folks are “good parents.”
Heckler said the children apparently did not attend school and it was unclear if they had ever been to a doctor, but they didn’t appear to be in bad health and showed no visible signs of trauma.
Another neighbor, Bob Greenfield, said Kaplan seemed “weird” and he now wishes that he also had called authorities.
“You knew something was wrong,” he said. “It makes you feel bad. If I had said something a while ago, they would have come earlier.”
The Philadelphia Inquirer reported that the Stoltzfuses were born into the Amish faith, but renounced it amid a long fight with community elders, according to a federal lawsuit they filed in 2009 against their former church. The lawsuit, which was dismissed later that year, said they operated a metalworking business on their property.
Heckler said the children are now together in protective custody.